AAPG Reacting To Ethics Issues

President's Column

Have you received an e-mail lately similar to the one below?

(Grammar and punctuation unaltered.)

"We want to transfer to a foreign bank account one hundred and twenty six million United States Dollars from a Prime Bank in my country, I want to ask you, if you are not capable. To quietly look for a reliable and honest person who will be capable and fit to provide either an existing bank account or to set up a Bank a/c immediately to receive this money, as long as you will remain honest to me till the end for this important business trusting in you and believing in God that you will be honest and never let me down now or in the future."

"You are the first and only trusting person that I am contacting for this business, so send your private telephone and fax number including the full details of the account and a valid passport and drivers license."

"At the conclusion of this business, you will be given 35% of the total amount."

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Have you received an e-mail lately similar to the one below?

(Grammar and punctuation unaltered.)

"We want to transfer to a foreign bank account one hundred and twenty six million United States Dollars from a Prime Bank in my country, I want to ask you, if you are not capable. To quietly look for a reliable and honest person who will be capable and fit to provide either an existing bank account or to set up a Bank a/c immediately to receive this money, as long as you will remain honest to me till the end for this important business trusting in you and believing in God that you will be honest and never let me down now or in the future."

"You are the first and only trusting person that I am contacting for this business, so send your private telephone and fax number including the full details of the account and a valid passport and drivers license."

"At the conclusion of this business, you will be given 35% of the total amount."

Wow!!! I could stop here and we would have a good lesson in ethics.

I am saving these e-mails just for fun and have received 86 so far. It makes me wonder why they keep coming. Note that the words "honest" and "trust" appear several times.


Ethics has quickly become today's most critical business and professional concern. Look around. It seems as though for every organization or individual receiving an ethical award, there's another being charged with some type of impropriety. And this has led more than a few to conclude that we are in the middle of an ethics crisis.

Two facts are undeniable:

  • There are some serious problems out there.
  • It's absolutely imperative that AAPG and its members don't get caught up in them.

The vast majority of geoscientists are honorable; however, I have encountered misbehavior too often in my career. I came to the decision a while back that I would not stay in business unless I could find honest and trustworthy partners.

The issue of ethics in our personal and business activity is constantly in the papers; you hear about it on the evening news; it's plastered on industry publications and legal journals. Almost everyone is talking about it — almost everywhere you turn, it's front-page news.

There is a lot of discussion going on in AAPG about the subject. What is the role of the association in setting standards and addressing the image of our profession?

The following are some suggested action items:

  • AAPG will conduct a mini-summit in February to review our Code of Ethics and to examine additional initiatives to create heightened awareness. How can we better enforce the Code?
  • Establish a short course on ethics, to be designed by the geosciences department and a special committee that I have established. The purpose will be to encourage members to demand ethical behavior of their colleagues — and practice it themselves.
  • A sub-committee of the Distinguished Lecture Committee has been formed to design and implement a distinguished lecture tour on ethics. We already may have a high level corporate executive to deliver this.
  • Compile specific instances of ethical activities and ethical practices (case histories) for reinstallation of this once-popular series in the EXPLORER. Also, publish a booklet on these histories.
  • AAPG's standing Committee on Ethics is charged with addressing complaints from members. The committee's actions should be vigorously supported, but complaints need to be backed by documentation and not based on hearsay, grudges and revenge.

Finally, we should all take heart in the fact that codes of ethics, ethics programs and the special departments — corporations and associations — don't make the ultimate decisions about ethics.

Ethical choices are made by INDIVIDUALS.

"Honesty is the cornerstone of all success, without which confidence and ability to perform cease to exist."

— Mary Kay Ash

"With the present climate of popular distrust for institutions in our society, there is a magnificent opportunity for AAPG to restore some faith and confidence in the American enterprise system in general, and the oil and gas industry in particular … "

— Victor Yannacone Jr.